Tennis

After Successful Wild U.S. Open, Dominic Thiem Heads to Clay

Again in Europe, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic solely watched the primary 4 units of america Open males’s last earlier than heading to mattress after midnight.

That was slightly like driving throughout the desert to the Grand Canyon and by no means getting to take a look at the view.

The payoff solely got here on the tail finish of the journey on Sunday evening when a mediocre match of wildly fluctuating high quality was one thing really memorable as Alexander Zverev failed to complete off Dominic Thiem, who failed to complete off Zverev, who failed to complete off Thiem, who lastly managed to turn into the primary new males’s Grand Slam singles champion since 2014.

“We each had it on our rackets,” Thiem stated in an interview with The New York Instances on Monday.

That’s plain and was usually agonizing for these viewers who did make it to the fifth set and its decisive tiebreaker. Each finalists needed their first main title a lot that they had been generally unable to operate.

Each cramped from the nerves. However Thiem’s grip on himself was in the end only a bit stronger and his shotmaking down the stretch fairly a bit bolder, together with bodacious back-to-back forehand winners down the road that allowed him to carry serve from 30-30 at 4-5 within the last set.

It was not over but. Extra breaks, faults, chokes and winners lay forward. However it may have been over proper there after which, with Zverev simply two factors from victory and having fun with the posh of not having to fret in regards to the yips he was having on his personal serve.

“The extent of the match was for me one of many worst finals I noticed in my life,” Gunter Bresnik, Thiem’s longtime coach, stated in a phone interview. “However it was two younger gamers making an attempt to do one thing they’d by no means carried out earlier than of their lives.

“For me, the higher method lasts the longest in a match, and Dominic has the higher method and is the man since 2016 who deserves the Grand Slam title essentially the most at any time when the Massive Three guys weren’t within the image anymore.”

Bresnik started teaching Thiem, a fellow Austrian, when Thiem was eight years previous. Bresnik formed his recreation and mentality for 18 years earlier than Thiem broke away final yr, hiring Nicolás Massú, the previous Olympic singles champion, to be his coach.

“An enormous step and a really powerful resolution,” Thiem stated. “After all I’ve to thank Gunter so much. He taught me all of the strokes I’ve, however on the identical time I felt there have been some little elements of my recreation that I actually can enhance a lot, and that’s precisely what Nico helped me with, particularly the development I did and the progress I did on the quicker surfaces, on the hardcourts.”

Thiem, 27, additionally believes that breaking away from his mentor — albeit along with his mother and father’ assist — allowed him to take extra possession of his profession and even his pictures.

“Independence and rising up is so essential,” Thiem stated. “On court docket if it’s 5-all within the fifth, it’s a must to take the choice, your personal resolution. If you’re free exterior the court docket, when you’ve got your personal staff and are taking your personal resolution, it’s additionally going to be simpler on court docket to take these selections. That made a distinction final yr and likewise this yr.”

For Bresnik, Thiem has at all times been a step-by-step participant, not able to profitable an enormous title in his late teenagers or early 20s however very able to constructing as much as it.

So it has performed out.

Thiem gained no units in his first Grand Slam last: a loss to Nadal on the 2018 French Open. Thiem gained one set in his subsequent: one other loss to Nadal on the 2019 French Open. Thiem gained two units in his third: dropping in 5 to Djokovic at this yr’s Australian Open.

In Thiem’s fourth main last on Sunday evening, he gained the three units he wanted in opposition to Zverev.

Thiem is 4-7 vs. Djokovic, 5-9 vs. Nadal and 5-2 vs. Roger Federer.

Would it not have meant extra if he may have crushed one of many Massive Three alongside the way in which to the title in New York?

“By no means,” Thiem stated. “For me, it’s not price much less or extra. Whoever I beat, it doesn’t matter to me. I had the probabilities in my earlier finals to beat one of many Massive Three and even two of them on the street to a title. I failed, however I hope that I’ll get extra probabilities to take action. There’s the French Open across the nook.”

Thiem has been the world’s second finest clay-courter behind Nadal for the previous three seasons and lengthy imagined that his first Grand Slam title would come on the French Open’s “terre battue” if it got here in any respect. As a substitute, it got here on a fast acrylic hardcourt in New York with just about nobody within the stands.

“For positive not the way in which I imagined it, however the feeling didn’t disappoint me,” Thiem stated. “Such an enormous aid and such a contented second once I transformed that match level.”

However clay remains to be his favourite floor, and he can’t be counted out in Paris even when Nadal is a 12-time French Open champion (that isn’t a typo) and is contemporary and jet-lag free after skipping the U.S. Open to coach in Europe on clay.

“I’m very positive that bodily I’m going to be recovered and prepared 100 p.c, however the different factor is how I digest the U.S. Open emotionally, mentally,” Thiem stated. “It’s actually for myself an enormous, big achievement, larger than something I’ve achieved to this point in my tennis profession, so I’m undecided how I deal with this. Now I’m nonetheless filled with adrenaline and pleased emotions from yesterday. However as soon as some days go by, we’ll see how I really feel.”

Thiem has performed one clay-court tour occasion this season: the Rio Open in February earlier than the five-month tour hiatus brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. He additionally performed exhibition occasions on clay through the break, together with the Adria Tour, the misguided circuit Djokovic organized in Serbia and Croatia in June.

Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and different gamers and coaches examined constructive for the virus, however Thiem was not one among them. He stated he is not going to play once more earlier than Paris.

“For Dominic to maneuver from any floor to clay, I might say it takes half an hour,” Bresnik stated. “He’s so used to it.”

Adapting to changing into a Grand Slam champion would possibly take somewhat longer, notably when it was so perilously near not occurring in any respect.

“You would possibly assume profitable your first at 27 is de facto late,” Bresnik stated. “However I’ve stated for 10 years, the perfect time for a tennis participant at present is between 26 and 33. If Dominik would win 5 to 10 Grand Slam titles within the subsequent 5 years, I truthfully wouldn’t be shocked.”

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